By Jackie Finn
Throughout the year, we will be taking a look at players who could contend or surprise during this year’s Series. Up now: German Alexander Zverev, a rising star who made an splash at this year’s BNP Paribas Open, reaching the round of 16 before losing to Rafael Nadal.
The Alexander Zverev File
Residence: Monte-Carlo, Monaco
Current Rank: 52
Career- High Rank: 52 (March 2016)
Best 2015 Series Finish: 1R (Cincinnati)
Eighteen-year-old phenom Alexander Zverev, nicknamed “Sasha,” is making noise on the ATP World Tour – and the greats of the modern game are taking notice.
In the days leading up to Indian Wells, the ATP released a “Next Gen” campaign, naming Zverev as one of its rising stars, a recognition also awarded to Americans Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Croat Borna Coric and Australians Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios. But with a standout performance this year at Indian Wells, Zverev appears poised to separate himself from the pack.
Before a tough 6-7(8), 6-0, 7-5 loss to Rafael Nadal in the round of 16, in which Zverev missed a forehand volley that would have won him the match, the German was the lone “Next Gen” player left in the field. He was also the youngest player to reach that stage at Indian Wells since American Ryan Harrison’s appearance in 2011.
Zverev’s impressive showing against Nadal was preceded by an efficient 6-2, 6-2 victory over No. 16 Gilles Simon, a match that took just over an hour. And that comes on the heels of a February victory over 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic and a pair of losses to world No. 7 Thomas Berdych that went the distance.
These performances have propelled Zverev 30 spots up the rankings since the start of 2016 and have earned him high praise from some of the world’s best, with Berdych, Nadal and current standard-bearer Novak Djokovic all tabbing him as a future world No. 1.
Zverev’s hard-fought and closely contested matches against the world’s best players showcase the German’s mental toughness and many on-court talents, which include an at-times overpowering serve and surprising court coverage for a man who stands 6-foot-6. He also has the experience of being a former top-ranked world junior and the counsel of his brother, former Top 50 player Mischa Zverev.
Zverev played in only one Series event in 2015, losing in the first round in Cincinnati, but as he continues to grow into his game, the towering German figures to be a regular fixture late in big tournaments – and steady presence atop the Series leaderboard.